By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service
May 18, 2007 – Higher troops levels are a major contributor to the success of operations in Iraq, especially in cities like Fallujah, a U.S. commander of troops in the western city said during a news conference today. Building on the successes of the combat teams before his, Marine Col. Richard Simcock, commander of Regimental Combat Team 6, said the biggest advantage he has over his predecessors is the number of troops available to secure and stabilize the city.
"We can do more because we have more," Simcock said. "Troop levels have allowed us to go places our predecessors couldn't."
He told reporters that his 6,000 troops have been able to break the "whack-a-mole" cycle of securing an area and then moving on only to have the enemy to come back in afterward.
"We can go into a particular area with a large force, establish security and set conditions for Iraqi security forces to come in behind us to transition into securing the area," Simcock said.
He said his troops, with coalition and Iraqi forces, have successfully applied this strategy in four different cycles over the five months they have been deployed to the region.
Progress in Fallujah is "phenomenal," he said, describing how although the 2004 Operation al-Fajr almost destroyed the city, with nearly all the residents being captured or killed, the city today has almost 4,000 residents.
"Fallujah today is an economically strong and flourishing city," Simcock said. "We're making great progress."
He described the progress in Fallujah as having attained an iconic status for both coalition and enemy forces.
"It's not perfect," he said. "The enemy doesn't want to give up, and within (the area of operations), Fallujah will be the last battle we'll have to win."
Terrorists continue to use murder and intimidation to try to hinder progress within the city's government, he said. Within the last year, four of Fallujah's 20 council members have been murdered, but the members were quickly replaced and the council has continued meeting.
The violence isn't stopping forward progress, Simcock said. The people of Fallujah are seeing the benefits of what the government is doing.
"The terrorists fear the city government of Fallujah. They know the only way they can combat it is through murder and intimidation tactics," he said. "I'm proud of the elected mayor and councilmen for not giving in to that tactic."
Simcock said his confidence in the ability of the Iraqi government and forces continues to grow as both refuse to give up when facing enemy threats.
The colonel said coalition forces on either flank, in Baghdad in Ramadi, are having tremendous success, but he doesn't fear the possibility of terrorists fleeing those cities and coming into nearby Fallujah.
"The people we're facing will always go the way of least resistance, and they may be coming here," Simcock said, "and I welcome them, because they are in for an unpleasant surprise."
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